Do we prevent somebody being hurt by superstition or faith by rejecting and challenging those things? 

Is it mistaken to support organised religion in membership or donations?

If people do good because they are human, not because God prompts them then is it right to risk giving God any credit when they alone own their good?

Patrick H


The argument

None of the attempts to justify God, though able, standing by and doing nothing when the innocent suffer from disease and are hurt mercilessly by others work. So religion resorts to say that it is a mystery. It is an insult to say that when every possible avenue has been explored and found to have a dead end. The mystery doctrine is only a cop out. There are no possible suggestions why God might allow terrible things to happen. And suggestions amount to being no better than arguments like, "Hitler our dictator does alarming things but there are indications that it is not all bad so we should trust him to do what is best and wait and see. There are suggestions that it is better than what it seems." It is dismissive. Being dismissive shows one does not grasp how terrible life is for so many others. The argument then that evil is a mystery is not really an argument. It is refusing to deal with the issue.

Religion will argue that those who say evil shows that belief in God must be rejected are refusing to deal with the issue as well. Is that true?

It will not ask though if it is true, who is refusing the most to deal with it? Is it the believer or is it the atheist?

To say there is a God when things happen that say otherwise is refusing to deal with the issue. The believer and the person who contradicts this believer's faith in God cannot both be evading the issue. One of them has to be dealing with it.

To call evil a mystery necessitates accusing sceptics of the existence of God of not really caring about the issue and dealing with it. The mystery doctrine then depends on doing evil as in making false or unfounded accusations. So clearly the person callously refusing to care enough about evil is the believer.

The believer is happy to risk accusing God of allowing evil to happen when there is evidence for God. Justice is a principle. If you accuse a person who does not exist of having done bad things that is still unfair. The person not existing is not the point. The point is you are still being unfair. God then has to tell us why evil is needed. Us finding good reasons why he might allow it means we are speaking for him. No decent person speaks for a tyrant - the tyrant has to explain himself. Only he can clear his name.

And if the creator is not good and not evil but amoral what then? To say God needs good is to admit that he may in fact be evil though this possibility could be slim. It is immoral to raise the question, "Is God bad?" about an amoral God.

The biggest reason to believe in God according to some is that God forgives us all for we are all sinners and heals lives and helps us all to move along together. If this forgiveness argument can be debunked then we prove that there is a bigger refusal to deal with evil in the believer than in the atheist. It can be debunked conclusively. If somebody hurts you, what if you have only one of 2 choices. You can forgive them or you can free yourself from the anger thus do fine without forgiving. Forgiving and dealing with the pain are two different things. You can refuse to forgive Hitler but that does not mean you are trapped in negative emotions that harm only you. So deal with the pain and forget about the forgiveness. There is no mystery about the fact that reason proves that God is not the be all and end all. The mystery doctrine assumes he is but he cannot be. It is more important to just help a baby than to do it for the love of God. That is obvious. The mystery doctrine is immoral for it makes honouring God the only thing that ultimately matters.

If there is no loving God at all but only uncaring nature then it is to be expected that religious people will try and excuse how terrible suffering happens by saying it is a mystery. Their saying that is considered socially acceptable. But people are forgetting that to say it is to make an excuse or risk making one both of which insult the suffering of the innocent. Even if it is true that evil is a mystery, it does not follow that anybody says it is a mystery because it is true but because they want to make an excuse.

If you want to protect an evil person from exposure as evil, you will try to prevent anybody seeing the evil. One way you will do this is by saying that perhaps there is a supernatural reason why he is justified in doing what he does. The believer might intend to protect their faith in a loving God from being refuted by evil. The believer might not. In that case, the risk is still being taken. The risk is wrong and evil. Sensible risks are not based on ideas that cannot be tested. They are based on an interpretation of evidence. The risk the believers take is not a real risk but foolhardiness.

If there is no God, then believers are protecting themselves and others from finding out. They keep hoping that there is a good answer as to why people are allowed by almighty God to endure terrible and relentless suffering. But surely your job is not to hope that others are getting a favour under the circumstances but to help them? It is your own suffering you should hope for.

You can verify that you cannot verify a supernatural claim such as that a supernatural power is right to supernaturally let evil happen. You cannot just say that evil is a mystery. You need evidence that it is a mystery. You can look for evidence for anything even if it is just to prove to people that there are truths we don't know even if we don't know what those truths are. If anybody has a right to call evil a mystery, it would have to be a very diligent and clever theologian. That the Christian layperson thinks they have the right to say it is disgusting.

The notion of the mystery of evil is itself evil. Is it a necessary or unnecessary evil? Only the evidence can tell us. You need evidence that it is a mystery. And the evidence has to be very very good. And believing that evil is a mystery has to benefit us too. If you make mistakes and deliberately or accidentally condone a God allowing evil to happen you are administering a pain killer to yourself. You are giving yourself emotional opium. That could explain why generally speaking, religion does not do much good.

Only you can get evidence that your suffering is a mystery. You have no right to tell yourself that somebody elseís suffering is a mystery. Belief in God forces you to say that it is. Thus belief in God is immoral.

In the Book of Job, Satan persuades God to torment a holy and almost perfect man called Job. God did so. When Job asked God for an explanation God engaged in a pile of evasions. He pretended to be giving an answer and he was not. In the end, God just got Job to conclude that there is no answer.

If God has not told us why he lets evil happen but only gives us a little light and possible reasons then you can say evil is a secret.

A secret and a mystery are sometimes distinguished. Believers who find that every single reason as to why God might allow evil to happen is wrong and then resort to saying it is a mystery. A secret is that which is hidden from you. A mystery is something you may never ever understand even if you get all the facts.

If your child dies after years of agony it is tempting to think God should tell you why. Religion answers that he is not obligated to. It is his creation. You are not in a position to order God about. That is not a very nice answer when you think about it. It is insensitive. And if there is no God then it is cruel and criminal.

Some religious people say that God has given us a little light - we have a little help. "It is a mystery why the innocent suffer but part of it could be about how God needs to have regard for our free will, wants to help us become stronger people through suffering and so on." But they are assuming possible reasons but possible reasons are not actual reasons. There is a difference. You have no right to show indifference to the free will of a victim by arguing that God may want to respect the free will of her persecutor. That is a callous disregard for the free will of the victim. You have no right to suggest that a person may be suffering for God is lovingly administering discipline to that person. It does not matter if you think these are only some of the reasons but not all of them. Seeing the stuff about free will or discipline as a little light shows that the believer does not think they justify God letting evil happen on their own. So if they are that bad then they are not a little light at all. The believers are pretending that evil is a mystery. They know it is not.

How can an all-good God refuse to use his power to protect us from evil? Not only are we talking about the evil of disease and famine but also about how he lets evil people - who take away the free will of others by hurting them - do so much harm? Is the evil people's free will more important than that of the victims?

Theodicy is the attempt to show that an all-good God can still allow evil things to happen without becoming evil. It is always about trying to show there is no contradiction. The hypocrisy of that approach is clear for nobody argues that the existence of evil is an indication that God exists or demands the existence of God. If there is an all-good God it is not enough to show that God does not contradict the existence of evil, what we need is to prove that God needs evil to exist to be a good God! You might show that Johnny the Paedophile down the road molesting children does not prove that he has a bad person at heart. But reconciling his alleged goodness with the harm he does does not mean that he really is good at heart. You don't know - you cannot prove it. It is a stronger endorsement of Johnny to say that his molesting children proves that he is a good person. If God is all-good then he needs the strongest endorsement possible. So far we see that there is no hope of a theodicy working. It defeats its own purpose.

Religionists commonly, but not always, preach that the solution to the problem of evil exists but is undiscovered. They are right that having no answer is not necessarily proof that none exists but this does not apply in this case. We know what good and evil are and if there is a possible answer we would have found it ages ago. Some of the modern responses to the theodicies are improvements on old anti-god arguments. The old ones were good and sufficient. But the new ones are so good and carefully thought out that they force us to admit that the evidence against the existence of God is conclusive.

Religion still trots out the discredited theodicies for they know the congregation is not into deep thinking. So they easily think a God allowing evil to happen for a greater good makes sense. Or that it is a mystery - the mystery argument is good for stopping awkward questions. This is disgraceful and manipulative for it is oversimplifying something so major and important. That is an insult to children dying in agony from cancer.

Good is simply doing what is best for others. If God is wise and good then he always does good. His general purposes would not be that puzzling but his individual ones would be for we donít know the whole picture. For example, if it made sense to believe that God sends suffering to prevent worse suffering we would be able to trust him say when your baby dies tragically in sickness. So we would have the general reason but we would not know exactly why the baby was taken. But the general reasons make no sense. When a man tortures babies to death we do not say that he does it for a mysterious and perhaps supernatural general purpose that makes him innocent but perhaps misguided. But we are more entitled to say that about the man than about God who is more straightforward and less complex. The teaching that suffering and evil are mysteries in the general sense is evil for this reason. It is depraved to excuse God instead of the man who is more entitled to it. Perhaps God does not want us to judge Ė accuse or thank Ė others at all? Then that would mean that God is against the law of the land and against forgiveness which cannot be done without judging first. That would make life a misery. God could enable us to know if a person was guilty or not. He could tell us or help us to make a foolproof lie detector that also restores the bad personís memory where necessary.

It is evil to excuse the behaviour of a being whose existence you cannot really and rationally be as sure of as the existence of an evil and cruel person. If you believe in God then you have to believe that it is best to excuse the evil and cruel person. The being that is more likely to exist should get the best treatment and that is your neighbour.

The doctrine that evil is a mystery is itself evil. If evil is a mystery then God is fictitious and an abomination.

If Godís good looks like evil then God or anybody can use this to persuade us that anything evil is really good. It makes slaves of us though religion lies to us and says that God has made us his sons.

Believers in God stated, "It is a mystery how a perfectly good God can remain good while letting evil thrive. The possibility that it is about respecting our free will, punishment, chastisement, helping us to see the horror of evil so that we will recoil from it or that we appreciate good better if we experience evil go some way to helping us understand but they only help a bit. Overall it is a mystery." In reality this argument shows embarrassment. The believers are ashamed to say it is a mystery. If it is a mystery then there is no point in trying to say the theodicies help us reach understanding to some degree. It is contradictory. If we think belief in free will helps a little bit that does not mean it really does or that it is even slightly the reason. It is callous to put forward mystery as an excuse while you find it embarrassing. It is insulting to go out of your way to suggest that suffering might be punishment or discipline from God. That is what you are doing when you say it is a mystery and that those suggestions help a little. Its rude and disrespectful to sufferers most of whom will suffer more than you may ever experience or understand. It is easy for you in your relative comforts to judge the suffering of others as agreeable with the goodness of God.

The believer in God wishes to see evil as a mystery. That means there is no point in speculating as to why God lets so many bad things happen. The believer prioritises worshipping and praising God over assessing the suffering of others and its meaning. The believer is like the neighbour who sees the children being beaten up by the family next door and who tells herself or himself that it is right for some unknown reason so it is best to leave it. It is really about putting her or his own happiness before anybody else. Today's individualism is rooted in the poison sowed by religion in the past.

All religionists argue that since Godís goodness is infinite we cannot understand it. That is why it often seems daft to us. All religionists who see that evil cannot be explained take refuge in this theory. But this really means that Godís goodness is different to what our reason says is goodness. Our reason is said to be wrong because it is not intelligent enough. But how could goodness be infinite if there is so much of it that it becomes evil? An infinite line is still a line. Infinite space is still space. Infinite good must still be goodness. Infinite good means unlimitedly perfect goodness so if we understand what goodness is at all we should be able to understand what is good and what is evil.

If you say evil is a mystery and God exists then you are saying that you do not believe in God because of what you see on earth but because of Jesus' say-so or habit or authority or something. This translates thus: ďI donít care what suffering says. I ignore it and donít care for the sake of belief. I want to believe in what Jesus said or what the pope said and that is all I care aboutĒ. With that attitude you could only make yourself feel sorry for others not because you are really concerned for them but because you want to trick yourself into feeling compassion for them so that you can pat yourself on your back.

Even those who say that suffering is punishment for sin or is only allowed to happen so that we can improve ourselves as people by correcting the damage are still saying that evil is a mystery. You have people who reject all the answers they can come up with to explain how evil does not contradict the goodness and power of God. You have people who accept these answers but who say that in individual cases nobody can be sure what answer applies. Both sides are united in their contention that you cannot tell sufferer x why she or he is suffering. It is human nature to need an answer. Religion lets them down when they need it. The God belief lets them down.

Believers in evil being a mystery sometimes say that their belief is justified and reasonable because all they are doing is looking at the goodness of God and of believing in him so that they don't need an explanation for evil.

Perhaps we should start with the good in life and say it points to the existence of a good God. That is exclusive and insulting to people who are very very sick or depressed. They are excluded from this method. They won't be good at seeing the good. In fact, encouraging them to use the method is only going to inflict worse misery on them not to mention guilt.

The God concept should lead to those who suffer terribly and whose spirits are very low to fear that they deserve their suffering. Religion may tell them that they can't be sure that God is punishing them but it will have to admit that he could be. At best they can say the chance is small. But it is still a chance. And suppose God is hurting a person to help make that person more compassionate and holy. He could have chosen this method because the person deserves it. Or he could be hurting a person for no reason than just because they deserve it. Or he might choose to hurt them in a way that helps them and regards the hurtful side of this as what they deserve. In other words, he could help them without hurting them so bad but he decides to use a more brutal method of helping them on the grounds that they deserve it. The Bible plainly teaches that God punishes or gives people the evil they deserve.

If you see evil as a mystery then you cloud your view of good and evil. If you say God letting suffering happen is a mystery then his goodness must be a mystery too. I mean that if you pray for sunshine and it arrives, you cannot be sure if it was granted because it was good or for some mysterious greater good.

Some supporters of mystery argue that we regard evil as a mystery because good is not a mystery and that we see enough good to allow us to trust that the bad can be explained at least in the next life. This is a view that can only be taken by a person who has seen or experienced enough good. And that will differ from person to person. People will say that it may take a lifetime and that there is nothing wrong with that. But there is. If there is good, the person who takes a long time to see it is a bad person until then. He or she is too jaded or negative and selfish and blind. When explained properly, the mystery doctrine is an insult to those who do not see the good as justifying the mysterious evil hypothesis. It is in violation of the rule that religious belief should never put anybody at risk of unnecessary offence or harm.

Back to this good in life that entitles us to turn a blind eye to the evil and flippantly dismiss it as a mystery. What good should we start with? The beauty of nature? Or some other non-human good? Or should we start with the goodness in human nature? Or both? Definitely the goodness in human nature for it should show what God is like better than anything else would. It is the personal touch. But this method excludes those who have lived and are living awful horrendous lives at the hands of others. And goodness is about rules that must be kept irrespective of the consequences or it is about doing whatever has the best results. The problem with rules is that people pick what rules they want to keep and ignore the ones they don't like. For example, the pope makes it absolute law that you must not have sex outside marriage no matter how much good it would do. And he lets you eat animals despite the horrendous conditions in which they are treated not as creations of God but as objects to be slaughtered for food. And the problem with consequences is that we only predict and guess what they will be. You can get married because you have weighed it up that it is for the best and step into pure hell. We only guess what is good. Even if there is objective good, we still have to guess about what it is. If people want to believe in God because they want to be good then they need to see that the best they can do is guess. And you don't need belief in God to do that! The Church has brainwashed people to imagine that belief in God helps them to be good. If you believe God letting evil happen is a mystery and you consider this belief to be good for your morals and your spirituality it is for nothing. In reality you are justifying going out of your way to praise God for letting evil happen for his mysterious purpose. You are justifying the unjustifiable.

Christians are to love God for being what he is and not what they think he should be. Clearly the mystery doctrine comes hand in hand with God. If it is evil then so is belief in God.

If we are as prone to sin as religion says and often let God down through weakness, is it not vulgar for us to decree that God allows evil to happen and it is a mystery? That is because it is coming from unholy entities like us. It is more likely to be down to us wanting to think it than it is about us wanting to be correct.

The utter incoherence of love the sinner and hate the sin, the doctrine that is behind the theory of a good God and a good Jesus and the goodness of Christianity, proves that the mystery idea is not even to be considered. Christians are to love God for being what he is and not what they think he should be. God by definition is the being who knows best and does best. Loving sinners is supposed to be about loving them for what they are and not for what you think they should be. In other words you ignore the sin and even tell yourself that there is no sin in them at all! This is contradicted then by your calling them sinners and calling them opponents of holiness and the law of God and the perfect love of God. So you love them for the perfect people they are. If you partly hate the sinner and claim to mostly love them then you do not love them at all. You fail to love the persons for what they are and not for what you think they should be. Love the sinner and hate the sin only impresses those who do not really understand love. Those who preach the principle are propagating saccharinised evil.

Believers in evil as a mystery are so stubborn that if you prove to them that the God concept hurts people they will just rationalise that this hurt is justified even if we don't know how it could be. It is hurting people when you refuse to see that the evil they suffer is without any possible justification. In fact by saying that evil is justified though they cannot have any reason for thinking it can be, so there must be a mysterious reason, is agreeing with the evil. It dismisses the fact that even if you do not know exactly why suffering is sent that you at least should be sure it is possible that it is sent for good reasons. Claiming that if there are no good reasons you can think of, there must be at least one and it is a mystery is indecent. Just as a person is innocent until found guilty so suffering should be deemed terrible and useless until reasons are found that might justify a God letting it be.